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Wi-Fi Comes To The Moon

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moon wifiFor some reason, there are few coffee shops around Boston that offer free Wi-Fi. Sadly, Dunkin Donuts is the only place one can rely on for free Wi-Fi (not to mention amazing people watching) around here. You’d think the Hub would be more connected than that, but that’s sadly not the case. In fact, even the moon has a one-up on Beantown — there’s now lunar Wi-Fi that’s as fast as the Wi-Fi I’m using right now. I guess the coffee shop is next.

Researchers from NASA and MIT have devised a way to beam Wi-Fi capabilities from a base in New Mexico. Even cooler than that, they use telescopes and lasers to do it. Four separate telescopes, each with a diameter of roughly six inches, transmit an uplink signal via coded infrared laser pulses to a satellite orbiting the moon. The signal bends in the atmosphere as it travels the nearly 240,000 miles to the moon, so using four telescopes ensures that the signals from each bend differently, which increases the chances that one of those laser beams will hit the receiver on the satellite. The receiver also has a satellite, which focuses the laser light into an optical fiber before amplifying that signal 30,000 times. Then, a photodetector converts the light into electrical pulses that are then converted into data bits. And presto, a wireless connection is established.

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Drones Can Hack Your Phone Now

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snoopy droneHey look — here’s a hacking story that doesn’t involve the NSA! Will wonders never cease? Given that everything from innocuous-looking hardware and smart refrigerators can send your private information to hackers, it probably isn’t surprising that now drones can too. Hackers have been piloting (ha, sorry) newly developed drones that can raid your smartphone. The drone is dubbed “Snoopy,” which makes me kind of sad because I love Red Baron Snoopy and whatever he was doing up there, I’m sure he wasn’t infringing upon our privacy. Anyway, it zooms around scouting for Wi-Fi signals. The drone exploits one of the most common features of smartphones and tablets — that they constantly look for Wi-Fi signals and networks to connect to, and they focus on networks they already know and have used before, often connecting to them automatically. Snoopy then sends signals to your devices, posing as a previously accessed network.

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Chinese Scientists Create Cheap Wireless Internet Using LED Lightbulbs

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led lightsHorror films of the future, take note. While such overused tropes as “falling down while being chased” and “the car not starting when it’s most important” will probably always exist, along with being unable to get a decent signal on a cell phone, there’s a good chance the future will allow for characters to turn on a flashlight that would transmit a WiFi signal, which they could use to get on their phones and message someone on Facebook for help. Not that someone will have to be chased by a homicidal maniac in order to use it, but it’s always nice not to take things for granted.

Chinese scientists from the Fudan University and the Shanghai Institute of Technical Physics of the Chinese Academy of Sciences were successful in their recent attempts at creating LiFi, a cost-effective way of transferring wireless Internet signals through light bulbs rather than dedicated routers. The research team, led by Fudan information technology professor Chi Nan, will display their efforts via 10 sample LiFi kits at the Chinese International Industry Fair that will be held in Shanghai on November 5th.

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Wave Hello! Handheld X-Ray Device Tracks Movement Through Walls

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x-rayWhen a conversation about X-ray vision comes up, it’s usually in the context of which of Superman’s powers I would get arrested while using. But it won’t always exist purely in the realms of comic book fiction. (Or on the back pages of comic books, next to snap gum and sea monkeys.)

Dina Katabi, a professor at MIT’s Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, worked with her graduate student Fadel Adib to create a low-cost handheld device that can track an object or human’s movement through a wall. They call their system Wi-Vi, and technically, they won’t be using X-rays at all, but WiFi signals. (Which is why it isn’t called X-Vex, I guess.)

Based on concepts similar to sonar and radar imaging tactics, the Wi-Vi uses two transmitting antennas to send out a signal that is the inverse of the other, so that they cancel each other out, along with any non-moving items behind the wall they’re being pointed at, as well as the wall itself. But if something behind the wall is moving, the signals recognize this, and they can then be used to track whatever is back there. The MIT website story uses the word “human” a lot, but I’m already picturing this technology being used in a found-footage horror movie like [REC].